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Santa Rosa County Deputy Faces Fraud, Theft Charges

2/6/2001

TALLAHASSEE – A Santa Rosa County sheriff's deputy faces charges of insurance fraud and grand theft stemming from a fraudulent accident claim, Florida Treasurer and Insurance Commissioner Tom Gallagher announced today.

David Michael Powell, 29, of 3725 Creighton Rd., Pensacola, was arrested Friday by the Escambia County Sheriff's Office on the charges, filed by fraud investigators with the Department of Insurance. Powell was suspended from his job at the time of the alleged incident.

According to investigators, Powell contacted Progressive Insurance Company last Dec. 31 and added comprehensive and collision coverage to his existing automobile liability policy. On Jan. 2, Powell was involved in a single-care accident and filed an accident claim. Powell indicated to adjusters that he had hit the railroad tracks near Tarragona and Main streets in downtown Pensacola after he swerved to miss another vehicle.

Based on the claim, Progressive paid Powell more than $3,200 in claim benefits and was in the process of issuing another check for $1,699 when the company became suspicious. State fraud investigators said they learned that on Dec. 31, about an hour before Powell contacted Progressive about extending his coverage, his vehicle had been towed by a local wrecker service from the same location and with the same damage.

Investigators said Powell was not entitled to the insurance benefits he received because the accident occurred prior to the upgrade of his auto policy. This kind of activity is known in the insurance industry as "past posting," filing for insurance benefits after an incident has occurred and then trying to collect benefits as if the policy had been in force.

Powell faces up to five years in jail and up to a $5,000 fine.

The Department of Insurance, Division of Insurance Fraud, investigates various forms of fraud in insurance, including health, life, auto, property and workers' compensation insurance. Anyone with information about this case or another possible fraud scheme should call the department's Fraud Hotline at 1-800-378-0445. A reward of up to $25,000 is offered for information leading to a conviction.